I am a Tesla fan boy. The first stock I ever bought was TSLA. And it is still my second biggest position after Bitcoin. So, of course I am delighted by the recent rally. But speculation was never the primary motivation. I only buy stocks or cryptos, if I see a benefit to our society at large and sustainability. I have an important investment disadvantage in that I only invest in companies that behave ethically. This excludes most of the highly profitable big tech stocks, such as: Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Disney. My investments are long term. The TSLA market cap raced past Daimler just two months ago, and past Volkswagen last week. In the meantime it is double that of Daimler and 20% above Volkswagen. Essentially, it trippled in the past half year. Should it continue with this pace, it could become the worlds most valuable car maker before the year ends. There are analysts who predict even much higher figures. After all, Tesla’s financial charts show numbers close to exponential.
In the past, Tesla was not perceived as a threat by the old guard of car makers. At least they wouldn’t publicly admit. Some still to this day act as if they could continue selling their pollution machines for the foreseeable future. These days, the tone has changed. Tesla is the benchmark for electric cars, and electric cars are the future.
Ever since I drove a Model S for the first time, I knew that this is the future. It is not just that driving electric is so much nicer, it is also the rest of the experience. Tesla owners are not surprised that their manufacturer leads the brand loyalty statistics. Over the years many Tesla killers were announced. All of them fell short. They have a hard time to even compete with the cars that Tesla released seven years ago. The Porsche Taycan was the first who can compete in terms of performance, but it is the least efficient electric car on the market. Meanwhile the Tesla model 3 is the most efficient car on the market. The Audi comes close in terms of charging speed, but is almost as inefficient as the Porsche. The Hyundai comes close in terms of efficiency, but lacks in everything else. There are so many unique features where Tesla is ahead of the pack: Supercharger network, over the air updates, really good software in the car, self driving, consistently rated as best in class safety. They are pushing the bar in so many directions.
In the foreseeable future, I wouldn’t even consider another car make. All these developments are great, and it seems as if the gap would even increase. But this trajectory leads to a future that slowly starts to concern me. Monopolies are never good. There are countless examples of companies who acted benign while growing up, but turned into bullies once they were big enough to get away with it. Cory Doctorow calls it “every pirate wants to become an admiral” in his book Information doesn’t want to be free. I never met Elon, but I think he is a good guy. Nevertheless every company can rotate personal and change direction. And Tesla customers are reliant on the company more than is usual. So far they never exploited their position, but who could assure that it never happens in the future.
On my last service visit they informed me that in the future they would only accept payments by credit cards. My last credit card expired five years ago, and I have no intentions to go back into the dark ages of pull payments. Also for supercharger usage, you only have three options: Either deposit credit card information in your Tesla account, having some free credit from referrals or the like, or having a car with unlimited lifetime free supercharging. Luckily I have the last option. Using credit cards and leaving its information everywhere can lead to unpleasant experiences like unintentionally buying upgrades. I am sure they will make it right this time, but maybe they could get away with something like this in the future.
Last year I was informed, that they no longer answer the phone at the service center. They want the customers to book the appointments in the Tesla app. Too bad that this app doesn’t run on any of my phones. When a door handle stopped working two weeks ago, I faced a dilemma. I didn’t call because I was told they wouldn’t answer the phone, and the phone number was no longer displayed in the navigation screen of the car. I sent an eMail to the service center and another one to the person I had contact the last time. Both were bounced immediately. There was no trace of the functionality to book appointments on the website. And as stated above, the app doesn’t run neither on my Librem5 nor on my UBPorts phone. So the only option left was to pay a visit in person at the service center. Luckily it is only a 10 minutes deviation from my regular commute. The person told me that a ranger would call me the next day to make an appointment, and that they would answer the phone again. A week later I called to ask if they forgot me. And indeed they didn’t know anything about it. But this time the person in the service center made an appointment. Now I am looking forward to have that door handle fixed.
As long as there is competition, companies have an incentive to keep customers happy. But if your product is so much better than everything else, that incentive goes away, and bad behavior is becoming the norm. So far, there is still some competition from polluting cars, but this will diminish in the coming decade. I am not even sure if it can be considered competition. Everybody (with very few exceptions) who ever drove an electric car never wants to go back. I read from people who say they were treated by Tesla employees as if they needed to be grateful for the privilege to get such a great product. So please, traditional car markers as well as startups: Don’t let that 17 year young Californian electric car company push you out of the market. But please don’t try to hinder them with cheating and throwing rocks like in the past. Better start making products that can compete with Tesla on many levels. Competition is healthy, and having choice is good.
Having a ranger coming to fix the door handle was a next level experience. The day before the appointment, as usual I received a confirmation eMail. At about the announced time, I received a call from the ranger informing me that he is now in front of the office building. So I went down, and greeted a very sympathetic guy in a Model S with a trunk full of tool shelves. After I showed him to my car, I went up to the office to work again. When he was finished less than an hour later, he called me again on the phone. I always like to talk to the technical people. He explained to me, how the design of the door handle improved so that they should no longer break like the first generation. He even confirmed, that the opposite door handle that was replaced earlier is also from the improved design. The price was reasonable as usual with Tesla repairs. At first he wanted a credit card. When I told him that I don’t have one, it was no problem at all. He sent me an invoice to my eMail address, and I paid the same day. So, in conclusion the experience for having the door handle fixed was really really great, after the difficulties with getting an appointment were ironed out.